Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Thanet Fees For Information Proposal Shafted

I was delighted to learn today  that the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) is still  alive and well and that efforts to undermine its  effectiveness and  scope have been defeated.

In its response to the report produced  by the Freedom of Information Commission , published on 1 March (1), the Government has announced  that it will accept the Commission’s recommendations and not introduce charges for FOI requests.  Nor will it make changes to the rules which allow charges to  be made for complex and time consuming FOI requests.  In addition, the Government intends to force public authorities   to publish, on a quarterly and  annual  basis,  detailed statistics on the number and nature of FOI requests received,  and to publish  more information about the pay and perks of senior staff(2).

You will probably recall that Thanet Council, despite UKIPs manifesto commitment to support the FOI system,  proposed to the Commission that   a  £25 charge for  every FOI request be imposed. This would have made it impossible for local campaigners such as myself and Louise Oldfield  to have exposed the incompetence, mismanagement and abuse of power by TDC and its then Labour councillors which  lay behind the Ramsgate Pleasurama and Margate Dreamland projects and the TransEuropa Ferries secret  £3.4 million debt scandal to name but a few. It would  have also stymied the efforts of  local and regional media to expose the serial wrongdoings and fuckups of what many believe to be the worst council in England - TDC.

Thankfully, TDC’s North Korean style democracy-dodging  proposal was totally at odds with the thinking of  the Commission and Government who both stated that  accountability, and transparency would be undermined if requests for information were  deterred by the imposition of fees.

This decision should be a clear signal to organisations like Thanet Council, and it’s accountability-avoiding councillors,  that their longstanding cultures of secrecy, cover-up and economy with the truth will not be tolerated and that they should be much more open to the public about their actions. Its hard to believe that for once I find myself on the side of the Conservative Government, what next? Supporting Iris Johnston or Chris Wells?  


  1. Who at TDC came up with this £25 ofr FOI requests? It's not in any manifesto - did the civil servants issue it without Well's approval?

  2. Who at TDC wrote and approved that letter?

  3. Perhaps the costs incurred answering the public's FOI requests should be laid at the door of Councillors & Officials who fail to be open & transparent in the first place.

  4. Yes 23:24 the actual cost is one salary at c.£25k - or part of a salary. it's only getting documents out of the filing cabinet...